The Learning Curve: Summer 2016 in London

After a couple of days back home on stable, secure American soil and a couple of nights of sleep in my clean, air-conditioned home, I have had time to reflect on my London Internship Program experience. And I can honestly say that I got as much out of my time in London as possible.

I came into this summer with the tangible goals of narrowing my career interests and earning credit towards my Global Politics major; in hindsight those goals were very generic, and while I achieved them, I did not expect the extent to which I would surpass them.

From the standpoint of getting credit for our British politics class, Dr. Blick was fantastic and we learned a lot about a variety of British political topics — from devolution, to decolonization and war, to religion. But I thought the most enriching education in British politics I received was outside of the classroom, by living through the unusual amount of seismic political events that occurred in the seven weeks we were in London. The Brexit referendum is the one that will be remembered for years to come. It will be a cool to recall to peers or job interviewers that I witnessed the Brexit and its aftermath firsthand, in which we saw David Cameron’s resignation as Prime Minister, upheaval of international markets and leadership in Parliament, and the eventual election of Conservative Theresa May as new Prime Minister. Day to day, there were always big events occurring, and through class I was able to understand in context of British government and society what was going on. I will always remember how shocked Londoners (the same people that told us all during the first week there was no way the UK would actually leave the EU) were those first few days after the Leave vote. It will be fascinating to see how the negotiation of the Brexit will unfold in the months and years to come.

Internship and career wise, I feel blessed to say I had an excellent experience where I received some more clarity about what I want to do in the future. When I blindly applied to Channel in the winter, I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. But I sure am glad I took the time to do so. IMG_6593Because of this summer, I have discovered a very interesting sector of work that isn’t very well-known in the U.S. — speciality insurance. I particularly found the global nature of political and credit risk insurance very appealing given my academic interests, and because of my work experience this summer, I will look into pursuing this field further. I was very fortunate to be able to experience working in a world-renowned place like Lloyd’s of London, and I think my internship was a great example of the wonderful opportunities students get through attending Washington and Lee. Conversations with my boss, who is a W&L alum, were also very beneficial to me. As a person who has experienced the same career questions as myself going through our school, he had great career recommendations and insights as to how to navigate the upcoming interviews process. Moreover, I now have a great W&L and London contact in the insurance business. Our first London Week also gave me a look at a wide range of jobs, and I was able to compare and contrasts these with my personal interests. Overall, the London Internship Program was a great way for me to get my foot in the door, and I am thankful that I had the opportunity to do so.

Outside of the classroom and workplace, I also thought going abroad for such a prolonged period of time was a valuable exercise in independent living. Being far from home at school and having gone to summer camp for many years, homesickness and independent living are not struggles of mine. But living in London and traveling across Europe this summer taught me how to travel on my own, adapt to international cultures, and take care of myself and others. As one of my classmate’s blog eloquently said, it is either sink or swim when you are abroad — you must adapt. My friends and I joked throughout the trip about a “learning curve” to this experience; and living and working in a foreign country (in my first corporate environment, mind you) certainly revealed that. Planning meals, work commutes via public transportation, or weekend trips required us to rely solely on ourselves, and thus coming back to America I feel more mature and independent than ever. We certainly experienced our fair share of bumps along the way, but the most valuable learning is gained through personal experience. Even though London is certainly a powerful and civilized city, I still feel that I stepped outside of my comfort zone to have a summer experience unique of my peers back home in the States

While I will not miss the most expensive city in the world vacuuming my bank account daily, or our hot, messy apartment (thanks Acorn), I will always look back fondly on my 2016 summer spent in London with the confidence that I made the most of my experience. For all the pounds we spend (or gained) on the trip, we had tenfold the laughs; we will go back to W&L in the fall with so many great memories and inside jokes. I had a great internship, and I got to live in the United Kingdom during the most politically tumultuous time since World War II. I got to read the news from the anchors’ desk at CNBC; I got to watch the last 20 groups play the 18th hole on Saturday at The Open from the first row; I got to eat dinner 45 stories above the London night skyline; I got to hike Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh, and walk along the Danube River in Budapest. And now, finally, I get to catch up on sleep. Lord knows I haven’t gotten any over the last seven weeks. But how else would you rather spend your summer?

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  • Witt,
    Hardo alert with this massive post! Haha just joshing, we have fun here. Your comments on the outside of the classroom experience resonated with me most. Being abroad is a completely different experience than being away at school. Adapting to, what I think was many of our first corporate experiences, is one thing. But doing so while navigating public transportation and a different culture is something we should all be very proud of. I would not trade any of the mistakes we made (with the exception of the Budapest fiasco), as I think we are all stronger and more independent people for it.
    Thought I might add that picture you’ve included of Hayden and I is magazine material, good stuff.
    Cheers,
    Jack


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